MORTON — An addition will be built onto the Morton police station as part of a state-mandated consolidation of Tazewell County's 911 emergency response system.
The village of Morton will pay the estimated $695,000 cost of the construction, although it will receive rent — about $29,000 annually — from the communities and other entities served by the new Public Safety Answering Point.
To get the construction process started, the Morton Village Board earlier this month hired Morton-based Keach Architectural Design to design the addition, which probably will be built next year.
So why is the Morton police station a good site for a new 911 call center?
"When the station was built (it opened in October 2004), there was room for expansion at the east wall," said Morton Police Chief Craig Hilliard. "We didn't think the expansion would happen this soon."
The station also has an appropriate sized equipment room, Hilliard said.
Tazewell's new 911 system must be operational by July 2019.
Hilliard is chairman of the county's Emergency Telephone System Board. The board oversees the county's 911 system and is doing the same for the consolidation.
Hilliard provided a timeline for the consolidation process, which began in 2015.
That's when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that requires counties with less than 250,000 population, like Tazewell, to consolidate their PSAPs by 50 percent, or to a maximum of two, in an unfunded mandate.
Tazewell currently has four PSAPs.
The Tazewell/Pekin Consolidated Communications Center in Pekin takes care of 911 calls for the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office, Pekin Police Department and 32 other police, fire and emergency service agencies.
East Peoria, Morton and Washington have their own 911 response centers in their respective police stations. Creve Coeur is served by East Peoria.
When Tazewell's consolidation is complete, there will be only two 911 centers. One will be at the TPCCC in Pekin and the other will be at the Morton police station.
The TPCCC will be expanded before the Morton addition is built.
A Tazewell Consolidated Communications Center governance board for the new 911 system will handle finances, select a director, and name an operations board that will decide on policies, procedures and rules at the PSAP sites.
A total of 29 dispatchers and supervisors will be hired for the around-the-clock operation after all current personnel are laid off.
East Peoria, Morton and Washington dispatchers also have record-keeping duties for their respective police departments and help people who walk into the police station. Each community will have to hire new people for those roles.
Dispatchers in Tazewell responded to 193,000 calls in 2016, of which more than 40,000 were 911 calls. Over the last five years, the average number of 911 calls per year in the county has been about 42,000.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.